I have no idea what a “presse” is but elderflowers are wasted making it. If you don’t mind looking like a mental picking the flowers and uttering some twee bollocks asking for permission from the local forest hag you can make a genuinely impressive white wine or even sham-pagne.
Generally speaking there are two errors in recipes. The first is the absolute eye wateringingly high alcohol content – 1.5kg of sugar ferments into a lot of alcohol and will honestly make all your problems go away… and the cat… and your partner. I usually use no more than 1kg per gallon to make a 13% wine. The other error is that most recipes say pop the bottle six months after pitching the yeast. Leave it a year minimum for a far more complex taste. A taste that impresses friends and gives an air of refined class rather than penny pinching alco-hippy.
The flowers can be frozen if you want to make a few batches or even bought dried if you live in an urban hell hole like Gosforth. The wine can be an outrageously sweet but delicious dessert wine, dryer table wine, spritzer if too sweet or a sparkling Faux-inet to attract Ms Babcott from no34.
- 500ml elderflowers heads
- 1kg sugar
- 250g lightly chopped raisins
- Half a mug earl grey tea
- Juice of 3 squeezed lemons and zest
- Sachet of yeast (EC1118 or CY-17)
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 4.5l boiling water
The elderflowers provide the top notes, raisins add the body and the tea creates the tannin base notes and mouth feel. Lemon juice adds acidity not only for taste but also the correct pH for the yeast to multiply. Alternatives can swap one lemon for an orange or the addition of fresh ginger for a bit of oomph. Any white wine yeast can be used but EC1118 gives a champagne taste even if still and CY-17 ferments a little slower to keep the aromas from boiling off.
Pick the flowers on a sunny morning to get as much pollen thus aroma as you can. Pluck the flower heads and discard as much of the green stems as you can. 500ml will give a full flavor for a gallon of wine.
Throw the flowers, roughly chopped raisins and lemon zest into a sturdy stainless steel pot (Aluminium will discolour because of the acid and imprint on the taste!) Pour over 4.5 litres of boiling water to steralise the flowers killing the unknown wild yeast and steep the petals.
Stir in the sugar thoroughly and add the half cup of Earl Grey tea. (If going full fancy pants and using a hydrometer 1.08 to 1.09SG will make a 12 to 13% wine.)
Once the liquid has cooled add the juice of the three lemons and then pitch the yeast and yeast nutrient and give a stir 30 minutes later so that it dissolves. Cover with the pan lid and wait for the magic to start, after 2 hours the flowers may mysteriously start to float, a few hours later and bubbles start as the yeast begins to respire and multiply.
Stir twice a day if you are lazy or four if a professional (you are a professional) with a nicely steralised metal spoon. Dont worry the hideous brown crown that forms is entirely normal and stirring stops any chance of oxidation of the exposed petals and pumps all that delicious flavour into the must. After 6 days or so decant through a sterile muslin into a demijohn. (If using a hydrometer the reading should be about 1.01SG) Squeezing the muslin will press as much flavour through as possible so use it as a little therapy.
After a month when there are no bubbles syphon into a fresh demijohn and top up to the neck with boiled and cooled sterile water.
After another two months it can be bottled, though racking once more and letting it bulk age will add a more well rounded flavor as the tannins will bind with less sediment present. This wine will be absolutely dry so if you want to sweeten you need to stabalise stirring once a day for four days – the addition of 6tsp of white sugar per bottle should be enough but you can go crazy.
Crack open a bottle at six months for a mere hint of what is to come. Leaving it for a year from pitch to pop will create a complex but mellow taste perfect for a summer afternoon.
… vol-au-vent Ms Babcott?